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OPENING REMARKS

SECOND REGULAR SESSION, 16TH CONGRESS


SPEAKER FELICIANO BELMONTE, JR.
28 JULY 2014

My dear Colleagues:
We open the Second Regular Session of the 16 th Congress
with a profound sense of urgency. We have accomplished
much in our first year, but much more needs to be done.

The past four years under the leadership of President


Benigno S. Aquino III witnessed remarkable growth in our
economy,

and

unprecedented

transformations

in

the

governance of our country.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who visited the


Philippines earlier this month referred to the Philippines
as the next Asian miracle. He also acknowledged that
our country is now a global model in fighting corruption in
government.

We heard the same praises from other business leaders


and economic observers who attended the World Economic
Forum that we hosted in May this year.

Indeed, successes have been astounding in the arena of


our governance. But, we face the bigger challenge of
sustaining the economic growth, and consolidating the
governance

reforms

initiated

by

the

Aquino

administration.

No opportunity must be missed, and no effort spared -this momentum of growth and social transformation must
be sustained.

In this spirit, I ask that we begin this Second Regular


Session of the 16th Congress with a renewed sense of
mission. We must pass legislation that will further sustain
this growth, accelerate inclusive development, and sustain
the reforms for good governance that we have achieved in
the past four years.

It has been 27 years since the 1987 Constitution was


ratified and took effect.

To this day, various provisions

have yet to be fully operative due to the absence of


relevant implementing laws.

Section 26, Article II of the 1987 Constitution categorically


prohibits political dynasties, but no law has been passed
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to implement this constitutional mandate.

For the first

time ever in 27 years, we have House Bill 3587 or the Act


Prohibiting the Establishment of Political Dynasties --- it
has passed committee deliberations, and is now up for
plenary

discussion.

We

must

proceed

in

earnest

to

examine the merits of this bill and lay out the parameters
of its application toward creating effective deterrents to
the establishment and perpetuation of political dynasties
at all levels of government. The crux of this bill shall be on
how we define political dynasty.

Section 7, Article III of the Constitution recognizes the


right of our people to information on matters of public
concern. Various initiatives for a Freedom of Information
Law are now pending committee deliberation. We must
craft a viable FOI Law to promote greater transparency
and strengthen accountability in government, without
unduly restricting the latitude of options for government
action in the delivery of services to the public and in
responding expeditiously to the needs of our people.

There is also the clamor for a Bangsamoro Basic Law.


Current realities challenge us to re-examine existing

legislative

policies

on

the

governance

of

parts

of

Mindanao.

The 16th Congress is given this momentous opportunity to


make history by passing a responsive Bangsamoro Basic
Law that shall establish a solid framework for genuine
peace and enduring stability in Mindanao within the
bounds of the Constitution. As soon as a draft measure is
submitted to Congress, we must ensure the judicious
passage of this law.

Amending

restrictive

economic

provisions

of

the

Constitution that constrain the flow of important foreign


direct investments in strategic sectors of our economy
also demand our attention.

The Resolution of Both

Houses on this matter is now awaiting plenary action.


These proposed amendments will ensure the continuous
flow

of

investments

that

directly

contribute

to

job

creation, which could liberate our people from the clutches


of poverty.

But, it is also necessary that these amendatory initiatives


be simultaneously coupled with the adoption of policies
supportive of the entry of foreign direct investments in
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the country. It is foreign investment, not hot money that


we need.

Thus, we must also act swiftly on other bills intended to


create a more conducive environment for the inflow of
investments, and the generation of more and better job
opportunities for our people.

First, the country needs a National Competition Policy. We


need to send the right signals to investors who are looking
for a level playing field for business.

We must enact a

National Competition Law that unifies, codifies, updates,


and streamlines all legislation and regulations affecting
competition in the country.

It must complement ongoing

market-oriented reforms focusing on economic efficiency


that will create competitive industries and provide quality
goods and services at reasonable prices. A proposed
Competition Law is now pending in the committee level. I
urge the Committees on Trade and Industry, and Economic
Affairs, to conclude deliberations thereon, and to submit
the bill to the plenary with dispatch.

Second, we must attend to the proposed Rationalization of


Fiscal Incentives Act and the Tax Incentives Management
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And Transparency Act. These measures, if enacted, will


send positive signals to investors who want clarity and
consistency in trade and business rules and regulations.

Third, we must also prioritize measures that promote


infrastructure development, foremost of which are the
amendatory bills on the Build Operate Transfer Law, the
Cabotage Law, and the Electric Power Industry Reform Act
or EPIRA.

Our countrys growth momentum is now put at risk by the


chronic precarious power supply situation. While the
Executive is empowered by the EPIRA to ensure power
supply security, it is incumbent upon Congress, exercising
its oversight powers through the Joint Congressional
Power Commission, to conduct a thorough review of the
implementation of EPIRA, the rules and regulations of the
Energy

Regulatory

Commission,

and

the

Wholesale

Electricity Spot Market (WESM). The House Committee on


Energy must now consolidate proposals to address the
need for competitive bidding of bilateral contracts, and of
establishing a genuinely competitive power market that
fosters a level playing field for all stakeholders in the
industry.
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Fourth, we must also give focus to our non-renewable


natural

resources.

Extractive

industries

should

be

developed not just for private gain in the short run, but
also for public benefits in the long run. We must act in the
full interest of national development and inclusive growth.
We have to make sure that the mining industry yields
reasonable

private

gains

that

will

redound

to

the

competitiveness and efficiency of the industry. We must,


however, guarantee that the government is given a just
and lawful share from the proceeds of economic activities
on our natural resources, and ensure minimum damage to
the environment.

We have many other vital measures in the pipeline, and I


have only cited some of the key measures requiring our
priority attention for this session.

I say again -- we still have so much to do in this House.


And I ask each one of you to help. Help us do more.

Recent rulings of the Supreme Court on the PDAF and the


DAP have created new challenges to the Legislature. PDAF,
which formed part of the national government budget for
7

decades, is now unconstitutional. Likewise, the use of


savings for certain purposes through the Disbursement
Acceleration Program was, subject to a pending motion for
reconsideration, also declared unconstitutional. We need
to explore new legislative paths to bringing needed
resources and services to our people.

This week, after the President delivers his SONA, he will


submit to us the proposed 2015 national government
budget. It is the most important piece of legislation we
enact every year.

We have been very supportive of the public financial


management reforms of the government in the last four
years. Without fail, we passed the General Appropriations
Act on time,

banishing the nightmare of

re-enacted

budgets from the national consciousness. The prompt


submission of the proposed national budget to Congress
by the President, and the hard work, discipline, and
commitment of every member of Congress to scrutinize
and approve the budget well before the start of the next
fiscal year, have made this possible.

Congress holds the power of the purse -- otherwise known


as the power to appropriate, and its twin, the power of
legislative oversight. We must now exercise these in order
to strengthen accountability mechanisms and ensure the
proper and lawful allocation and utilization of public funds.

We, Members of the House, are in unique positions of


proximity to the people. In consultation with the various
local development councils, we can continue to help
identify local needs and concerns that may be overlooked
by national government agencies, or which could not be
addressed by our LGUs due to their limited financial
resources, and ensure that these are identified and
included in the budget.

Let us also establish the framework for the conduct of


continuing or year-round legislative oversight over the use
of public funds by all government agencies. With the
committee

system

deliberations,

as

every

our

spearhead

committee

must

beyond
now

budget

chart

an

oversight plan of action over departments, agencies and


entities

whose

mandates

fall

within

their

respective

jurisdictions. A year-round Committee-based oversight


agenda will transform congress into an effective horizontal
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accountability mechanism in our system of government,


able to conduct early detection of waste, fraud, and
mismanagement, as well as institute remedial measures
against acts of malfeasance in government.

I have reviewed a number of COA reports, and there are


two things that strike me:
First, there are a large number of audit recommendations
that

are

not

implemented,

or

are

only

partially

implemented;
Second, a significant number of audit reports result only in
qualified or disclaimer opinions.

These

indicate

possible

misuse

of

public

funds

and

inefficient public spending. This should concern us, as


representatives of the people, since we gave government
the authority to collect tax money from them whom we
swore to serve.

In this regard, resting on the strength of the power of


legislative oversight, I am directing the Committee on
Rules to study the creation of a Public Accounts and Audit
Committee, with jurisdiction to call and hold to account all
national government agencies, local government units,
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government-owned and controlled corporations, and other


government instrumentalities for their use of public funds,
and

to

undertake

legislative

action

to

improve

transparency of government operations.

My dear colleagues, the tasks we face are clear --More responsive legislation for sustained growth and
inclusive development;
More efficient and disciplined legislative oversight to
strengthen

government

accountability

and

enhance

government performance;
And, more resolute efforts at institutional reforms.
We must continually transform the legislature into an
open, accessible and effective channel for the realization
of the aspirations of our people for a better life.

Together, let our collective and united efforts as one


Congress

mark

another

year

of

milestones

for

the

Philippine Legislature, in service of and to the Filipino


people.

Maraming salamat po.


Mabuhay tayong lahat.

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